Commerce invests $43.2 million to help address significant need for more early learning spaces in Washington state
Grants will fund the acquisition, renovation, planning and new construction of 69 high-quality early learning facilities across 22 counties
OLYMPIA, WA – The Washington State Department of Commerce, in partnership with the Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) announced $43.2 million in grants to 69 early learning projects across the state. The grants provide financial assistance to allow Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) contractors and Working Connections Child Care (WCCC) providers to plan, expand, remodel, purchase or construct early learning facilities and classrooms.
“Early learning is a critical part of the state’s essential infrastructure for both families and our economy,” said Commerce Director Lisa Brown. “This investment in facilities in our state will help communities ensure safe, secure and stable early learning opportunities are accessible for everyone. This is critical for an equitable recovery for the state’s economy and families, and is vital to helping ensure that children succeed.”
The partnership between Commerce and DCYF highlights the significance of child care and early learning opportunities for all Washington families, businesses and communities. Most importantly, access to high-quality early learning opportunities contributes to kindergarten and school readiness and healthy child development. This is an educational issue, and an economic one: Research from the Washington Child Care Collaborative Task Force in 2021 indicates that lack of access to affordable child care keeps over 133,000 potential workers out of Washington’s labor force, resulting in an estimated $14.7 billion less in personal earnings, and over $1 billion in lost tax revenue annually.
“Communities are stronger when there is enough access to high-quality early learning for all children, regardless of family income,” said Ross Hunter, Department of Children, Youth, and Families Secretary. “The Legislature has wisely invested in the buildings and classrooms needed to provide this level of care. I’m pleased that the strong partnership between DCYF and the Department of Commerce continues to support ECEAP contractors and Working Connections Child Care providers to expand access to care.”
Commerce received 143 applications requesting a total of $72.9 million. More information on the 69 projects awarded funding and a map of where these new projects will be located is available online.
The facilities receiving funding are located across Washington and serve diverse populations in rural, suburban and urban communities to create early learning opportunities for children in every part of the state.
Commerce awarded projects in three categories: pre-design ($20,000 award limit); minor renovation and pre-development ($200,000 award limit); and new construction and major renovation ($1 million award limit). When making award decisions, Commerce and DCYF evaluated key project criteria such as the number of early learning spaces for kids from low-income families, the project location relative to other early learning facilities, and projects located in rural locations and low-income neighborhoods, among other factors.
Visit Early Learning Facilities on the Commerce website to learn more about the grant program.